Breakthrough Leaders 2024: Building Deep Connections with Women in Leadership

Reflecting on the first experience of Breakthrough Leaders, what stood out for me was the strategic line-up of activities. These were brought together specifically for us, as a group of diverse women of ethnicities, cultures, upbringings and backgrounds. Our time in Te Tai Tokerau was carefully crafted for us to experience these together in isolated, idyllic and historic settings. The experience deliberately removed us from the busyness of family and professional lives, in order for us to know ‘ko wai au’, ‘ko wai koe’ and ‘ko wai tātou’.   

I thoroughly enjoyed my first time at the Kauri Museum, doing waka ama and being at Waitangi. Through this collective experience up in Te Tai Tokerau, we gradually removed unbeknown and invisible barriers, built fellowships and trust, and strengthened vā amongst ourselves. Our authentic selves and vā weren’t shaped by our job titles but stemmed genuinely from who we were individually, forming this uniquely new group. Our group’s insights and deep reflections were so profound that, occasionally, a number of our peers broke into tears, which brought all of us into tears too. The feeling of māfana (‘warmth’ and deep passion) was undoubtedly felt and embraced.  

In only four days, I took away deeper connections and special vā with amazing and talented wāhine/fefine from across Aotearoa New Zealand. I feel humbly privileged, appreciative and honoured to be part of this.  

Although I am generally an introvert, I felt totally ‘at home’ with this group of wāhine over this short period of time. I feel I can share safely and, through this, maximise my potential as an individual and as a collective. I also took the opportunity to re-encounter myself along this journey and was able to learn new things, such as finding out about ‘generative listening’ and the benefits that it will bring forth. 

Excited was a word that I often shared in ‘our circle’ during our time in Te Tai Tokerau, and it is exactly how I feel for the year ahead. I feel excited for the possibilities that lie ahead. The possibilities of exploring new grounds, of finding deeper connections. The possibilities of learnings and understandings within and external to this cohort, especially those from the opposite gender, and of emerging with profound outcomes beyond our imaginations. 


Breakthrough Leaders 2024 participant Mafi Funaki-Tahifote is Tumuaki o te Tūāpapa a MAS, Head of MAS Foundation. You can find more information about our Breakthrough Leaders Programme here.